Are you a Mom? If you answered in the affirmative, then I’ll bet you’ve got MUILT and plenty of it.
Mommy Guilt is what I lovingly refer to as MUILT. Much like the love for our sweet newborn, MUILT follows the baby straight out of the womb and plants itself firmly into our hearts and minds.
Whether you haul around a diaper bag, the neighborhood carpool, a work laptop or anything in between, you are bound to be carrying around some MUILT as well. The inner MUILT critic is often at work whether we are conscious of her or not: How are the kids? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?
Moms, especially, receive befuddling mixed messages about how to parent: Don’t miss a moment. Don’t helicopter. Make the kids your highest priority. Your partner should come first. You can’t have it all. Here’s how to have it all. Don’t forget your friends, career, volunteering and hobbies… Huh??
In my last post, I shared how I had unwittingly allowed my independent twelve year old to fall to the bottom of my to-do list and how I am endeavoring to change this (see post). I heard from a number of you who disclosed recent or long-ago stories of similar experience. I had no idea just how raw of a nerve I would hit.
An ongoing intention as I write is to serve as a reminder to stay true to what really matters – which for most of us includes connecting regularly with our children. I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, at how many of you shared your version of MUILT – how you believe you missed the mark or fell short of some self-imposed mothering expectation.
A little MUILT can be beneficial. Its presence can alert us if we have gone astray from how we want to be living. When I become too consumed with work and the balance in my life feels off, a little MUILT allows me to reassess how I am allocating my time as well as if I am present for it. If we use MUILT as a cue to gently shift the balance, we can thank it for the insight, let it go, and move on.
There are occasions, however, when the MUILT works overtime. Most of us travel on far too many MUILT trips, getting lost in self-blame and self-judgment, rarely acknowledging all of our positive efforts and accomplishments. It is the MUILT that we allow to take up permanent residence in our minds that is unhelpful and counterproductive.
And this is where Mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness helps us to stop, breathe and see more clearly what is needed in each situation. When you have learned how to get quiet, tune into the inner voice guiding you, and heed it, that is all you need – you can let the confusing, often contradictory, advice and MUILT go. You know what is called for and you know you can trust it.
A vital piece of Mindful awareness is compassion and kindness. Most of us give this away freely and easily to others but struggle with offering the same to ourselves. When you realize, as I did, that you have not been parenting the way you intend, judging yourself is a pointless exercise bound to keep you stuck. Instead, you might actually congratulate yourself for noticing where you have gotten off course and, with benevolence and encouragement, move in the direction of your intention.
That is enough.
That will get you where you want to go.
Remember – this parenting thing is hard. This balancing act is challenging. The best we can do is our best.
When you recognize that you have fallen short, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, offer yourself some kind words and simply begin again.